More than a mile long, the elevated rail structure will cross Highway 198, construction could take nine months to a year
By John Lindt
Sierra 2 the Sea News Service
TULARE AND KINGS COUNTIES – California’s ambitious high speed rail project is starting to become a reality in the souther n San Joaquin Valley.
The Board of Directors of the California High Speed Rail Authority has approved construction of an elevated platform, viaduct or bridge that will house the proposed Kings-Tulare rail station just east of Hanford.
The news was announced by CEO Brian Kelly just before Thanksgiving. The station was changed from an at-grade to an elevated design, what will be the most visible construction project in Kings County over the next year.
Central Valley regional director, Diana Gomez says contractor Dragados Flatiron has been given the green light to start construction in early December on the structure that will span more than a mile carrying north and south bound trains on an elevated platform approximately 6000 feet from the station site near Lacey Boulevard to Highway 198 and over before dropping back to ground level. Construction of the huge bridge could take nine months to a year, expects Gomez.
Kelly says in his monthly CEO report that the station configuration change approved by the city of Hanford and Kings County “yields several benefits including that most the right-of-way required to complete the structure, which has a smaller footprint, has already been acquired and handed over to the contractor.
“In addition, with this change the Authority will not need to modify the Union Pacific Railroad line at this location nor will we need to relocate a major PG&E transmission line. This change includes refining the station location which necessitates an environmental re-examination but does not create a constraint to starting construction of the viaduct structure.”
The design allows multiple HSR trains to travel on the elevated viaduct while the so-called Cross Valley Rail line, at-grade, can be accessed steps below allowing passengers to travel by rail in the future east-west to Visalia without leaving the regional station.
Elevated station planned in Bakersfield and Hanford
An elevated station is also being planned in Bakersfield on a larger scale that might have a similar appearance. Travelers driving to the new Kings-Tulare station would approach from Lacey Boulevard and the Highway 43 roundabout.
Gomez says the viaduct structure will be built before the finished design is nailed down with CHSRA expecting a contract to design multiple stations put out for bid soon.
Helping to accelerate construction in Kings County, Kelly also announced a settlement with Dragados-Flatiron addressing a series of delay costs associated with securing right-of-way, utility relocations, third party agreements and authority directed changes in design and scope.
“Per the delegation of authority policy, I reported to the board chair that this settlement had been reached. Through this agreement we have cleared the costs associated with these delays through a modification to the contract budget of $133.9 million and a time extension to April 18, 2022,” Kelly stated.
A comprehensive analysis by the CHSRA’s independent auditor helped inform this agreement and, because of this agreement, a potentially higher level of risk exposure had successfully been avoided.
He added that the agreement, “Provides completion date certainty both to the contractor and to the Authority.”
Another major hurdle will be crossing the Kings River from Fresno County, a leg that has been delayed by complexities, including right way condemnation, agreement with Fish and Wildlife, and utility relocation. While CHSRA has settled with Kings County some months ago over their long dispute, they are still trying to work with farmer John Tos who has not dropped his lawsuit. Tos’s land is next to the Kings River project.
Gomez says looking ahead to the new year, contractors will start on eight new structures along the route in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties.
One million dollars from the CHSRA funding has been given to Kings County some months ago as a result of their settlement that has now been turned over to Corcoran to fund a new Veterans park in town.